VerBruggen on Race and Police Killings

I suspect that no one will pay any attention to Rober VerBruggen’s findings about the rate at which young black men are killed by police:

Essentially, once you make any plausible attempt to adjust for violent-crime rates, the disparity in police killings disappears. This has now been shown with homicide data from the Supplementary Homicide Report, violent-crime statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey, and cop-killer numbers from the FBI.

Without denying that white racism exists, I do not believe that the facts support the notion that the rate of killing of young black men by the police is caused by racism. I think it’s caused by the high rates of violent crime among young urban black men which itself has complex causes of which white racism isn’t irrelevant but probably isn’t the most important cause.

10 comments… add one
  • jan

    There have been other articles and statistical data confirming there is no rampant racial vendetta going on between police and the black public. Nonetheless, black activists, racists, guilt-ridden liberal whites, and those who find opportunity in pitting races against each other continue to stir the pot, aided and abetted by an incurious and politically correct media who is always seeking a sensational story line.

  • steve

    The right wing PC approach is to use FBI data. Police are not required to report either their shootings or deaths in custody. Many departments do not report to the FBI. Of those that do there is no consistency in how they report. Under these conditions, one should be skeptical about FBI numbers. Nonetheless, white activists, whites who don’t give a shit, and those who find opportunity in fanning the hatreds of white conservatives will continue to use the data on their media to promote a false story line. (Of note, Congress just reauthorized a law that was in effect from 2000-2006 requiring police to report shootings. You think it is just a coincidence that on VerBruggen’s chart you see a higher ratio of blacks killed when the law was in effect? Coincidental that it goes down after the law expires?)

    I would submit that we will never know the real numbers. The distrust of the police by the black community did not develop over the last 10 years, yet we are using data, that we know is faulty, from the last 5-10 years, and at a time when violent crime has markedly decreased. I suspect that there is probably less overt racism on police forces now than there was 30 years ago. I also suspect that if we had accurate from the past 30-50 years we would see a larger discrepancy than is seen in the FBI data.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/dec/03/marc-morial/are-deaths-police-shootings-highest-20-years/

    Steve

  • You combat bad data with better data.

    at a time when violent crime has markedly decreased

    Similarly, we know that the crime statistics are being held artificially low, the data being falsified by local governments. I’m surprised you don’t see the irony in criticizing the reliability of the data when it comes to homicides by police but accepting it uncritically for evaluating the crime rate otherwise.

    Digging out the truth would be an excellent job for reporters. Unfortunately, except in rare cases like the one in which the falsification of the crime statistics in Chicago was revealed, that isn’t happening.

  • steve

    The difference being that in the case of violent crime all major cities reported a decrease. This is also mirrored by lower rates in many other countries. While an international conspiracy is possible, it seems unlikely. In the case of police homicides, we know that some cities are not reporting at all, and others inconsistently. We know that the data is bad.

    Can you explain why accept Verbruggen’s conclusion. You think the data is bad but you believe him and not the data on decreased violent crime.

    Steve

  • As a physician once told me, the data are bad but they’re all that we have.

  • The difference being that in the case of violent crime all major cities reported a decrease.

    Does that prove that violent crime decreased or that all major cities have the same motivations and incentives?

    Using your logic, African Americans perceive that there has been an increase in violent crime rather than a decrease. Here in Chicago at least the African American community is complaining much more bitterly about violence (non-police violence) in their neighborhoods than they did a decade ago.

  • steve

    “As a physician once told me, the data are bad but they’re all that we have.”

    So we will believe the bad data when it comes to police shootings, but not for violent crime? Sigh.

    “Does that prove that violent crime decreased or that all major cities have the same motivations and incentives?”

    You have competing interests for any given city. The police may want to report higher rates so they get larger budgets. The mayor’s office may want to report lower rates. Couple that with all of the secondary evidence and i don’t think there is really any doubt violent crime decreased. Yes, you have evidence that some cities are fudging numbers so that they look as good as others, but no evidence that they are all doing this. Besides, if they all had incentives to fudge the numbers why didn’t they do that when the reported numbers were increasing? Everyone suddenly decided to start cheating in the early 90s? Really? Why? You need a consistent explanation here, and you don’t have one.

    “African Americans perceive that there has been an increase in violent crime rather than a decrease.”

    Their perceptions happen to go along with the reported numbers. Homicides had steadily dropped until the mid-2000s into the 450 range. Then, in 2008 and 2012 it went back over 500. If the city was fudging numbers, then it was even higher. If perceptions and numbers agree, I think it likely they are correct.

    So again, you seem to think that blacks are correct about perceiving more crime, but wrong about perceiving that they are shot more often by police. I don’t see any basis for this decision on your part, same as deciding that you believe VerBruggen when using (obviously) faulty FBI stats but don’t believe FBI stats on violent crime.

    Steve

  • steve, could you restate your position? I think you’re now arguing both sides of the question. Has the rate of violent crime increased or decreased and how do you know?

  • Andy

    “The right wing PC approach is to use FBI data. Police are not required to report either their shootings or deaths in custody. Many departments do not report to the FBI. Of those that do there is no consistency in how they report. ”

    I haven’t done the research, so I’ll take your word for it that good data does not exist. That’s a two-edged sword for those making partisan claims. Also, the tendency to interpret ambiguous data is not unique to the “right wing.”

    To repeat my own view, I think there is a general problem of police using force too often and not being held accountable when unjust killings occur. That seems to be the norm regardless of the race of the victim given how infrequently police are punished in this country. Therefore, it seems to me that arguments comparing ratios between various racial groups misses the real problem – even if those ratios were based on reliable data.

  • ...

    “So we will believe the bad data when it comes to police shootings, but not for violent crime? Sigh.”

    You seem to want to do it the other way.

    And is there any reason to suspect the police were only reporting incidents in which the police shot white suspects when the reporting law was in effect? That seems rather peculiar.

Leave a Comment